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Initial Statement by Sinn Féin in response to the Patten Report, 9 September 1999

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Research: Fionnuala McKenna
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Statement by Sinn Féin in response to the Patten Report, Thursday 9 september 1999.

``The Good Friday Agreement is clear. What is required is a new beginning to policing. A policing service which is capable of attracting and sustaining support from all sections of our people.

``It is our view, and we stated this to the Patten Commission, that the RUC is not a police service, and that its history, make-up, ethos and relationship with the nationalist and republican people make it totally unacceptable.

``After one year of taking submissions and listening directly to the public, many of whom have been victims of RUC violence, the Patten Commission has produced a very detailed, and wide-ranging report on policing.

``Over the years the RUC have seen themselves and have been seen as the armed guardians of the union with Great Britain and the armed wing of unionism. The RUC has never been representative of the community, nor accountable to it. Both it and the criminal justice system within which it operates have been found guilty of violating the most basic international human rights principles.

``Nationalists and republicans need to be convinced that the Patten report is indeed `a new beginning'. The RUC is not acceptable and a repackaged RUC will not attract any greater measure of support. Change must therefore include both symbols and substance.

``This is touchstone issue for nationalists and republicans. It is a critical issue and one which requires the fullest and most considered response from everyone.

``For our part Sinn Féin will study the Patten proposals carefully. We will examine and consider the report against the criteria set for it within the Good Friday Agreement and against the experience, demands and hopes of the nationalist and republican people. Uppermost is the desire for a proper, democratically, accountable policing service. We will seek to establish how far the Patten report goes towards achieving this goal.

``We also intend to scrutinise the British government's position bearing in mind its failure so far to implement critical sections of the Good Friday Agreement over which it has direct control.

``Sinn Féin will study the recommendations of the Patten Commission very carefully. We will engage in a wide ranging internal discussion with party activists and supporters. We will talk to the community and to the victim support organisations, to human rights groups and with the two governments.

``In due course the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle will decide on Sinn Féin's formal and definitive response to this matter. We would urge everyone else interested in creating the conditions for a lasting peace to similarly take a responsible approach and the necessary time to properly assess this report.

``Clearly, one of the acid tests by which Patten will be judged will be whether or not nationalists and republicans feel confident enough and have peer approval to join whatever service emerges. I am sure that no nationalist will rush to join until absolutely convinced that they will be participating in a new democratically accountable policing service.''

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